For many years, the history of The Staunton Military Academy was written as:
“Staunton Military Academy was founded in September 1860, by William Hartman Kable (1837-1912) at Charlestown, Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia). At the time, the school was known as the Charlestown Male Academy. Its founder was William Hartman Kable, a graduate of the University of Virginia. …. After the war, Captain Kable re-established his school at its original location, and conducted it most successfully at that location. ….All through this period of its history the school was known to the townspeople as The Kable School, and its Cadets were known as the ‘Kable boys’…..Captain Kable’s longing for the South became too strong and in 1883, he moved the school to Staunton, Virginia and renamed it Staunton Male Academy….”
Now that the true history of the beginning of the Academy has been researched and published, the natural question is “How did the history stay wrong for so many years?” The 1906 yearbook printed an article about Capt. Kable that accurately told the story. Capt. Kable was alive at that time and was undoubtedly interviewed for the article.
The first occurrence of the incorrect history story appeared in a Kablegram (the cadet newspaper) article in 1922. Why this article was written and published is a mystery lost to the ages. Thomas H. Russell was President of the Academy at that time. He had worked directly with Capt. Kable, and was married to one of Capt. Kable’s daughters. It is inconceivable that he would have not known the true story. Also, this researcher discovered that at least 2 Master Thesis’s, multiple newspaper articles, and several articles for Historical Societies were written through the years on the subject of the history of SMA, each supporting and referencing the incorrect history story.
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, the advertisements for the Academy would give a length of time the school had been in operation. Those lengths of time always pointed to 1860. This year coincides with the year that Capt. Kable began his first professional instructing position as the assistant instructor at the Green Plain Academy in Southampton County, VA. Since Capt. Kable was an assistant instructor of the Green Plain Academy and not its founder, this date could not be considered the founding of the Academy. Additionally, Capt. Kable, in a 1907 University of Virginia Alumni questionnaire, pointed to 1855 as the year that he started as an instructor.
Apparently Captain Kable pointed to the year of 1872, the year that he began as the Principal of the Charlestown Academy, as to what he considered the start of his school. This was evidenced by when one looked above the Sally Port going into South Barracks, the year to the left of the name on the marker “Staunton Military Academy” was 1872. However, from September 1872 until May 1884, Capt. Kable was an employee of the Charlestown Academy and therefore was working at that school rather than operating his own school. So the year of 1872, while it may have signified the start of Capt. Kable’s control of an established educational institution, can not be considered the founding year of SMA.
One theory that has been put forth is that the story was generated to place the start of the Academy before the War Between the States. In the early 20th century many people considered that a high level of honor and gentlemanliness existed in the South during the period before the War Between the States. Perhaps the school directors, in their advertising, wished to capitalize on this belief. Another theory put forth is that the closest competitor to SMA, The Augusta Military Academy at Fort Defiance VA, advertised that AMA was founded in 1865. Therefore, by putting the founding of SMA at 1860, the school was older than AMA and still allowed for Capt. Kable to have served in the Confederate Army.
Though research will continue to try to uncover the answer to the “Mystery of the Incorrect History”, the true answer may be lost to the ages.